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Spain sets new post-lockdown record for daily coronavirus cases

Despite the mandatory use of masks across the country, EU data shows Spain has the highest total tally of cases in western Europe as well as the highest incidence of cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days.

Scrambling to control the outbreak, regional authorities have begun to reimpose restrictions on nightlife and public transport that had been lifted weeks ago when infections had slowed to a trickle.

Health ministry officials have attributed the sharp rise in cases to increased testing, and repeatedly said the country is not yet experiencing a second wave of the pandemic.

Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country have all launched mass screening programs in a bid to identify and isolate asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

On Monday the health ministry said it was monitoring 1019 active clusters of the virus, defined as three or more linked cases spread across different households.

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Social gatherings were behind some 43 per cent of the clusters, with workplace infections linked to around 20 per cent, the ministry said.

Sweden records highest death tally in 150 years in first half of 2020

Sweden, which has stood out among European countries for its low-key approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years, the Statistics Office said on Wednesday.

COVID-19 claimed about 4500 lives in the period to the end of June – a number which has now risen to 5800 – a much higher percentage of the population than in other Nordic nations, though lower than in some others including Britain and Spain.

In total, 51,405 Swedes died in the January to June period, a higher number than any year since 1869 when 55,431 died, partly as a result of a famine. The population of Sweden was around 4.1 million then, compared to 10.3 million now.

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COVID-19 meant that deaths were some 10 per cent higher than the average for the period over the last five years, the Statistics Office said. In April the number of deaths was almost 40 per cent higher than average due to a surge in COVID-related fatalities.

Sweden has taken a different approach to most European countries in dealing with the pandemic, relying to a greater extent on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and opting against a strict lockdown.

Most schools have remained open and many businesses have continued to operate to some extent, meaning the economy has fared better than many others.

However, the death toll has been higher than in its Nordic neighbours, which opted for tougher lockdown measures. Norway, with around half the population, has had only around 260 COVID-19 deaths in total.

One in four Indians could have been infected, lab chief says

At least one in four people in India may have been infected with the coronavirus – a much higher number than official government figures suggest, the head of a leading private laboratory says.

Dr A Velumani said an analysis of 270,000 antibody tests conducted by his company Thyrocare across India showed the presence of antibodies in an average of 26 per cent of the people, indicating they had already been exposed to the coronavirus.

“This is a much higher percentage than we had expected. The presence of antibodies is uniform across all age groups, including children,” Velumani said.

Thyrocare’s findings are in line with government surveys done in Indian cities such as Mumbai, which showed that 57 per cent of the population in its crowded slum areas had been exposed to the coronavirus.

The Thyrocare survey covers paid and tested patients, covering 600 cities in India for the last seven weeks, Velumani added. If the current trend continues, the percentage of India’s population having antibodies may reach 40 per cent before the end of December.

India currently has a total of 2.8 million cases, third only behind Brazil and the United States globally, but active patients are less than a fourth of its total caseload, according to health ministry figures.

Norway adds Britain, Greece, Austria and Ireland to quarantine list

Norway said on Wednesday it will impose a 10-day quarantine on all people arriving from Britain, Austria, Greece and Ireland from August 22 due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in those countries.

Similar restrictions will also be imposed on those coming from the Danish capital Copenhagen, the Norwegian foreign ministry said in a statement.

To try to prevent a domestic resurgence of the coronavirus, Norway quarantines all travellers from countries with more than 20 confirmed new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population during the past two weeks.

The Nordic country earlier this month put on hold a plan to remove more coronavirus restrictions and urged its citizens to refrain from foreign travel.

With its latest additions, Norway will be restricting travel from two dozen European countries, including France, Spain, Poland and Switzerland.

It diagnosed 366 people with COVID-19 last week, the second highest level of any single week since April, but well below the record 1733 cases found in a single week in late March, data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health showed.

Florida virus deaths surpass 10,000

The number of people in Florida confirmed to have died from the new coronavirus surpassed 10,000 cases on Wednesday, as teachers and state officials argued in court over whether brick-and-mortar schools should be forced to reopen this month.

Florida reported 174 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths for residents and non-residents to at least 10,067 — the fifth highest death toll in the nation. Florida’s daily average reported deaths over the past week was 167 deaths. Two weeks ago, it peaked at 185 deaths.

A man wears a protective mask while walking along the beach in Miami Beach, Florida.

A man wears a protective mask while walking along the beach in Miami Beach, Florida.Credit:Bloomberg

The state reported a total of 584,047 coronavirus cases, a daily increase of 4115 cases.

Hospitalisations for the virus have been declining for nearly a month, and the growth in new cases has been decelerating. The positivity rate for COVID-19 testing in Florida has averaged about 11.4 per cent over the past week.

There were 5351 patients being treated for the disease in Florida hospitals early on Wednesday — down from peaks above 9,500 patients in late July.

Meanwhile, Florida’s largest teacher’s union argued with attorneys for the state of Florida during a hearing over whether schools should reopen during the pandemic.

The Florida Education Association sued Governor Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education and others to stop brick-and-mortar schools from physically reopening, arguing it is unsafe to do so until the spread of the virus is under control.

The teacher’s union is seeking an injunction from a judge in Tallahassee to stop schools from reopening by this Friday.

Diamond Princess to sail again next year

Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess, which experienced a major coronavirus outbreak that forced the cruise ship into quarantine in February, will sail in South America and Antarctica in 2021 and 2022, the cruise line said on Tuesday.

An ambulance leaves the port where the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship was docked in Yokohama in February.

An ambulance leaves the port where the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship was docked in Yokohama in February.Credit:AP

Earlier this month, Princess Cruises announced that it would cancel all sailings aboard the 2670-passenger Diamond Princess throughout Japan and Asia, between October 2021 and April 2022 in favour of re-deploying the ship to the new destinations. The ship was docked in Yokohama for the duration of the outbreak, which infected upwards of 700 people according to Johns Hopkins data.

The ship departed in May after it underwent a deep cleaning.

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The decision to move the Diamond Princess sailings doesn’t have anything to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, Negin Kamali, spokesperson for Princess Cruises, said.

“Given our ships are movable assets we are able change their locations,” Kamali said.

The Diamond Princess is scheduled to return to Japan in time for Golden Week in 2022, Kamali said, referring to a string of holidays in Japan that begins at the end of April and spans into May in 2022.

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Reuters, McClatchy, AP

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